Diving into dental health today, we’re exploring the often neglected issue of impacted canine teeth. We’re not talking about our furry friends but human teeth. Human canine teeth are somewhat pointed teeth that sit third from the center of the mouth—right between the incisors and the premolars.
So, what happens when those critical components in your smile don’t perform their role as expected?
What Is Canine Teeth?
The canine teeth, also known as cuspid teeth or “eye teeth,” claim a crucial position in the human teeth lineup. Located on both sides of our front teeth in the upper and lower dental arches, they’re primarily gripping or biting teeth of food, which plays a significant role in our digestion process.
There are four canines in the oral cavity, two in the upper jaw and two in the lower. These teeth have a sharp, pointed biting surface and are used for tearing food. The canines have the longest roots of any human teeth and are used to guide the mouth into position when you close your jaws, which helps maintain the position of other teeth and prevents them from becoming misaligned.
Canine teeth usually appear between the ages of 16 and 20 months in children and are replaced by permanent canines between the ages of 9 and 12 years
What Does It Mean When a Canine Tooth Is Impacted?
A canine tooth gets labeled as “impacted” when it’s blocked and can’t move into its proper position in the dental arch. This blockage can occur for several reasons, like crowded, overlapping teeth or extra teeth, also known as supernumerary teeth, in your dental arch. The common teeth that become impacted are wisdom teeth and canine teeth. Upper canine or maxillary cuspid teeth are the second most likely teeth to become impacted.
Whether impacted canine teeth need to be fixed or not largely depends on your situation and the potential risks associated with leaving the tooth impacted.
In many cases, dental professionals recommend treating impacted canines because they can lead to complications such as resorption of neighboring teeth (where the impacted tooth starts to dissolve the root of the adjacent tooth), infections, cysts, or alignment issues with other teeth.
However, in some instances where the impacted tooth is not causing any problems and is unlikely to do so in the future, a dental professional might suggest leaving it alone. This is typically the case when the impacted tooth is deeply buried and not positioned in a way that would affect other teeth. In such cases, the risks associated with surgical intervention might outweigh the benefits.
What Are the Indications of Impacted Canines?
Spotting an impacted canine tooth isn’t always straightforward. However, there are generally some signs and symptoms you can keep an eye out for:
- Delayed Eruption. The adult canine tooth should have proper eruption around 11-12 years of age. Any significant delay may point towards impaction of the permanent tooth.
- Abnormal Growth of Teeth. Extra teeth’ abnormal growths on the soft tissue can interfere with the proper eruption of canine teeth, causing canine impaction.
- Persistence of Baby Tooth. If a baby tooth in the canine position is still present beyond adolescence, it might be because an impacted canine is blocking its exit.
- Empty Gum Space. If there’s apparent vacant space where a canine tooth should’ve erupted by now, it’s likely a sign of an impacted tooth.
- Swelling or Sensitivity in the Gums. Any discomfort, tenderness, or swelling may indicate an underlying condition, such as an impacted tooth.
Regular dental check-ups from an oral surgeon are essential to catch potential issues like this early.
How to Fix Impacted Canine Teeth?
Addressing impacted canine teeth involves a combination of techniques, varying depending on the severity and position of the impacted tooth.
- Orthodontic Treatment. This commonly involves the use of orthodontic brackets or braces. A space is created for the impacted tooth to move, and then the adult tooth is guided into the correct position using braces. Invisalign is also a treatment option used to make space for impacted canines, but only if the permanent canines still have a chance to emerge naturally.
- Oral Surgery. In more severe cases or when orthodontic treatment alone isn’t sufficient, surgical exposure might be required. This could involve exposing the adult tooth, attaching a small bracket and chain, and then pulling it into position using the chain.
- Extraction. In some instances, the impacted tooth or other blocking the adjacent teeth might need to be removed, especially if they’re causing discomfort or posing a risk to nearby teeth.
- Dental Implants or Bridge. A dental implant or bridge is a common method that can fill the gap if the impacted canine can’t be moved into its natural position and needs to be extracted. Depending on the location, there are methods for the surgical exposure of the tooth.
Remember that the best treatment for impacted canines depends on the individual’s circumstances. Consulting with a dental professional or an oral surgeon is essential to determine the most suitable treatment plan.
Impacted Canine Tooth Surgery Recovery
Recovering from surgery to correct impacted canine teeth also varies depending on the extent of the surgical procedure, but here are some standard elements you might expect:
- Pain Management. Some discomfort post-operation is normal. Use prescribed or over-the-counter pain relievers as instructed by your dental professional.
- Dietary Changes. You might have to stick to soft foods for a few days post-surgery to help the gum tissues heal.
- Oral Hygiene. Keeping your mouth clean is crucial, but you must also be gentle. Rinse with warm salt water, and avoid vigorous brushing around the surgical area.
- Rest. Especially within the first 24 hours post-surgery, avoiding strenuous activities that might induce bleeding or swelling is best.
- Follow-up Appointments. You’ll likely have a follow-up dental examination to remove stitches and monitor the healing process.
Each person’s recovery may look slightly different, and it’s okay to call your dentist or oral surgeon with any questions or concerns during the recovery stage.
Managing Pain in Impacted Teeth
Managing pain from impacted canine teeth might involve a variety of strategies depending on the nature and extent of the problem:
- Pain Medication. Over-the-counter drugs like Ibuprofen or Tylenol can be used to manage moderate tooth pain. However, if pain persists or intensifies, it’s necessary to consult with your healthcare professional, who might prescribe stronger medication.
- Home Remedies. Some find relief using traditional home remedies like salt water rinses or applying a cold compress to the affected area. These practices can help reduce swelling and alleviate minor pain.
- Dental Treatment. Lastly, but most importantly, the underlying cause of the pain – in this case, the impacted canine – needs to be addressed. Depending on your situation, this could involve orthodontic treatment, surgery, or even just extraction of the problematic tooth.
Persistent pain could indicate an ongoing problem that needs professional care. So, while it’s normal to experience minor discomfort, prolonged or intense pain should be discussed with a dental health professional to devise a suitable treatment plan.
How to Prevent Tooth Impaction?
While some factors leading to impacted canines can’t be fully prevented, like genetics or jaw size, it’s essential to maintain an effective oral health routine and regular dental check-ups to ensure early detection and intervention of potential oral health issues.
- Regular Dental Visits. Regular dental check-ups are paramount. Dentists will monitor adult tooth development and can detect potential impactions early, helping ensure timely treatment and reducing the issue’s complexity.
- Maintain Oral Health. Regular brushing and flossing help keep the gums and teeth healthy, supporting overall dental health and potential prevention of common oral issues and tooth loss.
- Address Dental Issues Promptly. If you, as a parent, notice spaces closing between your child’s natural teeth or if your child complains about discomfort or pain, consult your dental health professional immediately. Early detection and timely intervention can prevent severe complications. It is more likely that an over-retained baby tooth will cause issues and push an adult tooth out of position.
While you can’t completely prevent the risk of impacted canines, making healthy oral practices a part of your routine and keeping up with your dentist’s appointments go a long way in ensuring they can be managed effectively and promptly, even if they occur.
Understanding impacted canine teeth is critical in ensuring optimal oral health for a lifetime. It’s important to have regular dental check-ups to monitor the health of all your teeth, including any that are impacted. The decision to treat an impacted tooth should always be made in consultation with a dental professional, who can consider your overall oral health, the position and development of the impacted tooth, and the potential risks and benefits of treatment.
If you have an impacted canine tooth or are experiencing dental pain and suspect you have this condition, contact us to book an initial consultation. We can assess your oral health and determine what type of treatment is ideal for your condition.